Struggles

7 04 2008

I am losing faith.

Not faith in God. Not faith in Christ. I have as much faith in the way of Jesus as I ever have. It’s probably safe to say that I have more faith in the way of Jesus than ever.

I am losing faith in church. I am losing faith in Christians.

I know, I know: Christians are imperfect people. They’re no better than anyone. But Jesus said that the way that the world knows who we are is by our love for one another.

And churches split. Christians kill. Christians advocate for war. Christians ignore poverty. Christians ignore the environmental crisis. Christians lead the way in hatred of homosexuals… You get the picture.

At the same time I know that this isn’t the whole picture. I know that there are wonderful people doing the work of God in the world.

So what are we to make of the church?

My experience with the church is a mixed bag.  On the one hand, I have developed life long relationships based on truth, forgiveness, love, and hope.  My wife and I have enriched our relationship through the church.  We have seen many examples of what it looks like to live in a loving, self-sacrificial kind of marriage.  Many people in the church have invested in my life – from my youth minister, to my high school buddies, to my college minister, to people who volunteered with me in the youth ministry at WHBC.

But then there’s that other hand.   One of the basic problems in my experience is that church is entirely focused on the sustainment of the institution.  From tithing to programs – everything rests on “growing” our particular “family of faith.”  There has been little to no focus on impacting the surrounding community.  Sure, we want people to come, only so long as they come to our church and “get saved” in our church so we can grow.  And I have met the meanest people in church.  There are people in the church who hate.  You know, the ones who never have anything good to say.  Everything is negative criticism.  Not to mention the deep political divides within the church.  The church is more divided in terms of right and left than the American political sphere – you have fundamentalists, mainline liberals, emergent, reformed, catholicism, etc., and virtually none of them work together.  Blah.

I could keep going, but you get the idea.

In all of this, I have been struggling over the past few months about what it looks like to actually be the people of God, to actually participate in the life of the Kingdom.  And I can’t get over the feeling that the Kingdom of God does not exist in the traditional, institutional church of America.  Maybe I’m wrong.  I hope that I am wrong.  It’s just a feeling that I have.  And I certainly don’t have any answers.  I just have questions (and sometimes I don’t even have questions, just illegible inward emotions that drive me crazy).

And in all of this, I have been struggling with my place in the church.  I used to think that I was going to be a youth minister for 10 years or so, and then possibly do something else in the ministry.  I can’t go back to that.  I can’t bring myself to work for a system that is so fundamentally flawed.  But I’m still called.  I know that God has called me to “ministry,” as cliche as that sounds.  So I have no idea where to go from here.

I have a feeling of disgust towards church.  I can’t put my finger on it.  I don’t have any answers.  I just know that I can no longer live in the status quo.

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6 responses

7 04 2008
Adam Moore

I know what you mean Marc. I’ve been there and I am there in many ways.

A couple thoughts (for whatever they’re worth).

First, my definition of church/Church has changed. I have taken a much broader view. I see church as a verb in a lot of ways. Church is something that happens – and it can happen anywhere. It can happen in an institution that meets on Sunday mornings but that place isn’t a lot more special than anywhere else (maybe a little more special…but that’s all I’ll give it). But the institution isn’t any less significant either. Church can happen there like it can happen anywhere else – it can also fail to happen there, just like anywhere else.

Second, as for calling. I’m in the same place. I feel more “called” than ever but I’ve never worked for a church and I don’t plan on it at this point. I think we need people outside the institution who are called. It’s hard figuring out how that works exactly. It’s a little uncharted at this point – but I hope that changes. It’s certainly not going to bring you an income. But I think there is a need for people who create places for church to happen outside of the institution – and I think it is important for these people to be outside the institution as well (if not completely, at least not paid by the institution). I know this is easier for me to say as someone who did not go to seminary. But that’s where I am. That doesn’t mean I think everyone should be in this place (I’m not telling you anything you should do). I think there should also be people in the institution who are working to create places and ways for church to happen. I just hope more and more are doing it outside the institution – maybe you’ll join me?

8 04 2008
Halpin

thanks Adam – as far as the term “church” goes, I completely agree with you. My problem, I guess, is with the institutional understanding of church. I desperately want to see church as you describe it happen, and I’m not seeing it in the institution. I know that it can happen, I’m just not seeing it. Maybe I’m looking in all the wrong places. Maybe I’m just overly pessimistic right now.

I also like what you say about church happening outside of the institution. And like you say, I have no idea what that looks like.

8 04 2008
random blogger

I’ve always learned that the “church” is the body of Christ. Believers from ages past through ages to come. It is the people and only the people. Worship and Ministry are the main things that the “church” does.
Check out YWAM…there may be a place just for you…outside of the institution!
http://www.ywam.org/Default.asp?bhcp=1

13 04 2008
Jon Hicks

It’s really late and I probably shouldn’t even attempt a reply to such a weighty topic at such an hour. But for what it’s worth. I guess my first, gut response to your post is I’m sorry. Really sorry. I can’t help but feeling like some of your questions stem from some difficult days as WHBC. So much and yet so little was accomplished there. And there were a lot of wounds along the way. I would wish that you hadn’t seen and experienced much of what you did, but then maybe we don’t meet etc…I am counting on the sovereignty of God to reveal to me why I saw what I saw there, and experienced what I experienced. And well, he hasn’t put it all together for me yet.
My other reaction is just to tell you that I think that the “Church” in many ways is broken as you do. Although I hesitate to lump them all together. It just seems so defeating. I also believe that God has called me to work out the church’s flaws from the inside. I don’t serve a church that has maximized it’s potential by any stretch of the imagination. But I want it to. I pray for it to. I work for it to. There are people here, who like the disciples themselves, need to be led over and over and over and over to build and cross bridges to this new “world” they are living in. And I think they want to. I believe they can. It is refreshing to know that most of them regard success in our student ministry not by my sunday school attandence, or how many sit on the front row sunday morning, but how many relationships we are building, how many lives we affect, how many stories we are listening to, how many broken we are healing. That’s not perfection. Not by a long shot. We still hear grumbling about crazy stuff. But I’m not giving up on them. I can’t.
Maybe this isn’t where God will ultimately lead you. Maybe you are to work from the outside- in. I don’t know. In Christianity’s history it’s darkest hours only served to accentuate some of it’s brightest lights. I don’t think God is done with the church yet. Broken and bedraggled as it is. I want to be one of the lights that clings to the hope that it can overcome. It can return to effectiveness. Whatever role God has for Marc Halpin, Shari and little Sam… you are going to be great at it. And I would gladly serve next to you again.

14 04 2008
Halpin

beautifully said… thanks, Hixie. 🙂

24 04 2008
Salvation as Liberation 1 « Halpin’s Blog

[…] as Liberation 1 24 04 2008 One of the reasons that I get frustrated with the evangelical American church is the truncated view of salvation that we have.  Our view of […]

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